COMMUNION: FREEDOM TO LIVE (2 Corinthians 5:17

Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O'Neill


Do you know that the death of Jesus is everything? The death of Jesus is everything, loved ones. That's it. In the death of Jesus is everything in this world. There's nothing that is as important as the death of Jesus. That's the answer to every need that we have and it's the answer to every problem that we have in our lives, the death of Jesus. That's why Paul said that, you know. He was a very clever man and he had some of the best education that the Jews could get in those days. And yet he said, "I determine to know nothing among you, save Christ and Him crucified." "And I didn't come to you speaking words of great wisdom dealing with all the philosophies", as he could well have done but he said that, "I came speaking in simple words so that the Cross of Christ would not be emptied of its power."

So loved ones, it's important for us this morning not to cover over the death of Jesus with all kinds of complicated explanations or trying to make it attractive in different ways. The death of Jesus is everything. You know what everybody's saying to you, everybody says, "You're the product of heredity plus environment." Everyone says that, all the psychologists say it, all our educators say it: "You're the product of your heredity plus your environment."

Actually you yourself would reinforce that, you would say, "Yes, if I think of my mom at this moment, I can think of certain traits in her that I know I can see inside myself," and many of us would say the same about our dads. We would say, "Yes, as I think of my dad as he was or as he is today, I know there are certain reactions that I have that are just like his."

Indeed, many of us who have lived years of our lives would still say that. I mean we are horrified at the thought but we would admit that many of the reactions we have to certain situations, many of the responses we have come straight from our dad and straight from our mom. And certain of our dads were great worriers. We are great worriers. Certain of our moms had just an ability to make a little biting comment and we have that same ability just to make a little biting comment. And we find we're responding the same way as they do. And that we can see we're certainly the product of our heredity.

Of course, what we're taught in our educational system is that that's it. That's it. You're part of a determinant system; there's no way in which you can be different from your dad or mom. There's no way in which you can radically change yourself. You can make little adjustments here and little fine tuning movements here, but there's no way in which you can change your heredity. And so many of us live under the burden of that.

Of course, it's further complicated by the fact that we know that our moms and dads were, in their turn, the product of their heredity. And then their moms and dads were in their turn the product of their heredity and actually we are the result of a long-long line of people who have formed certain habits and certain attitudes, and all of them are marked by one great characteristic. You can't see God. You can't see him.

He may be there, he may not be there, but we'd better make our own arrangements just in case. And that has been bred into our race for generations so that you and I, we're the victims of that also. We have that, each of us -- we're not very different from each other. Each of us deep-deep down have that little tinge of doubt or wonder now, is he there? Is he going to come through? Can I afford to regard him as more than a 30 percent aid in times of difficulty so that I'll arrange the 70 percent, so that I won't collapse completely if he fails but I can take him in at 30 percent. Most of us are in the same boat. We come from a long race of really unbelievers and doubters and people who have been taught to look after themselves.

Then, of course, we're the product of our environment. You know that. It's hard to watch television for even half an hour without seeing how they're all trying to shape us. They're just trying to shape us. They're trying to make us cool or sleek or popular or whatever. And we are saying, "Oh no, we aren't that, we're too sophisticated for that", but deep-deep down, the old subliminal stuff gets into us and we know that many of our reactions to things are governed by all the people around us.

You who are at university know how subtle and all pervasive is the attitude that certain things are "in" and certain things are "not in". It's the fad or the fashion to have certain views in philosophy, or certain views in science or certain views in medicine or sociology. And we're governed by those so that many of us are really just little machines. And I think that's the problem with many of us who almost wonder who we are. Because we really are just the product of our heredity plus our environment and there's nothing of us there at all.

That's why many of us begin to have identity crises and wonder, "Who am I anyway? Is there anything of me deep down at all?" Now loved ones, the death of Jesus is God's provision for that dreadful situation. The death of Jesus is God's answer. This man Jesus was not just a political criminal. He wasn't. He wasn't just a little Rabbi preaching in Palestine. This Jesus when he died, cried out an incredible cry. "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" And then later on said, "Into thy hands I commit my spirit" and died in absolute peace. Then on the third day came back from being dead to assure us that he really was the Son of the Creator of the world and that his death in 29 AD was not just his death at all but it was the death of a whole human race. It was the death of a whole human race. And that his death was not just the death of his 33 year old body, but that when he died, the whole human race died. And that it was a death that had actually taken place in eternity, millions of years ago. That's the way the Bible puts it.

The Bible says that this was the lamb slain from before the foundation of the world. And that God foresaw that you would end up being the product of your heredity plus your environment. And he in his mercy put you into his son Jesus and destroyed you in his son. And on Calvary, he simply set that forth and manifested it in time and space. And in his resurrection he recreated you new and complete.

Loved ones, it's possible for you to be freed from that long chain that ties you to your father and your mother, it is. God has broken that chain. He has taken away the spiritual powers that bind you to your father and bind you to your mother and bind to you to your grandparents and to all the generations back down through the history. And he has broken those spiritual chains that bind you to your peers and bind you to the opinions of other people. You see, that's why those things have pressure on you.

You know you wonder, is it just your genes? No, it is not just your genes. Or is it just the habits of society? No, it's not. There are spiritual powers that make you want to please the other person in your class. There are spiritual powers that make you want to please your professor at all costs even if it means denying your convictions. There are spiritual powers that make you want to follow your father's shortcomings and your grandparents' shortcomings, whatever you want to do with your best will. And when God put you into his son, he destroyed all those spiritual chains and fetters, all those connections and he set you free from those powers and you are able to be free from them by believing what he says, that's it.

That's why the death of Jesus is everything. Loved ones, the death of Jesus is the key to everything. It's the key to your life. It's the key to you being freed and changed inside and it's free to anybody who will simply believe it and act upon it. So when we take communion this morning, that's what we're talking about. We're saying that this very morning, the Spirit of Jesus and his Father, our God and Creator, are here in this room. And that if you believe that he has changed you in his son, and has utterly destroyed you in his death and recreated you in his resurrection, and as we kneel and pray, you are willing to leave aside the things that he has shown you are wrong in your life, he will give you the power to walk free from them this morning, that's it. That's it.

He will give you the power to walk free from them if you will simply turn from them with your will today and believe that you have been changed in the death of Jesus, that's it. I know some of you here this morning think, "Oh Pastor, maybe he has died for somebody important or somebody religious, but he hasn't died, he couldn't die for me." Loved ones, if you had been the only person in the world, Jesus would still have died for you.

You are precious to him and his Father. His pain came from his dying for you. His pain on Calvary was contributed by some of the wrong in you and some of the evil in you. You have a personal adjustment to make with Jesus. That's why the Bible says, "Christ died for all, therefore all died." Christ died for all and you're one of the all. And his death and agony of it was because in him, God took you and changed you completely and broke those chains that bind you to the past and bind you to the present and you can be free this morning. That's the explanation for men like Saul being converted to become Paul. That's it. That's the explanation for so many of us being changed in our lives. It isn't chance. It's a miracle that God wrought in his son Jesus. It's the normal plan God has for all of us.

So I would encourage you this morning. If you have for years been the product of your heredity plus your environment and you want desperately to get free from that and to change and to start again. -- then simply believe that when Jesus died, you died and God destroyed you and when Jesus rose from the dead, God raised you up and made you new and faith is living in the light of that. Faith is believing that and just living in the light of it. And today at communion, for most of us, it is being honest about our sins, about the things in our lives that we have tried to change for years and have never managed to. For us, it's confessing those to God this morning, turning from them in repentance and receiving Jesus into our hearts and our lives to live his life forever through us from this time forth.

Loved ones, will you think of that as we move now to the invitation to communion? I'll ask you in a moment all to stand so that nobody will be embarrassed by not standing, but I do ask you to take honestly to your heart the words, and to act upon them if you want this change in your life this morning. Will you stand to receive the invitation?

You that do truly and earnestly repent of your sins and are in love and charity with your neighbors and intend to lead a new life following the commandments of God and walking from henceforth in His holy ways, draw near with faith. And take this holy sacrament to your comfort and make your humble confession unto almighty God.

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